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A Leadership Mystery?

In both corporations and other types of organizations, particularly those in the sports world, there is a clear phenomenon that can help us understand leadership. A person (CEO, manager, coach) can be tremendously successful in one organization or team, but move to another and fail miserably. This is quite common. What does it mean?

There really is no mystery here. It has to do with what determines leadership success. It's obvious that the ability to succeed as a leader has to do with the personal skills and abilities (and beliefs, values) of the leader. That's the usual way we think about leadership success. What gets lost, despite strong evidence, is that success in leadership has to do with the fit between what a particular leader brings, and the situation or context, and the characteristics of the followers.

Some situations require firmer leadership approach, some a more gentle approach. Some require a degree of charisma while in other situations, that's not important. When a leader moves from one situation or organization to another, and is not able to adapt (i.e. continues to use what worked but what may not work in the new situation), the result can be failure.

Both companies and sports teams sometimes recognize this in their hiring, but leaders sometimes get stuck in doing what worked in the past, in a different situation, rather than adapting to the new situation.

See Also: What is Situational Leadership?

How come a leader can be effective in one organization, move to another, and seem to fail miserably?


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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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